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Prof. Michael Thurston Named Provost and Dean of the Faculty

November 19, 2018

Dear students, staff and faculty:

It is my pleasure to announce the appointment of Michael Thurston, Helen Means Professor of English Language and Literature, as Smith's next provost and dean of the faculty. He will begin his new role on July 1, 2019.

An authority on American literature and American studies, Michael Thurston has been a member of the Smith faculty since 2000. His primary research interest is modern and contemporary poetry, a genre in which he has authored, co-authored or edited four books. He is also a dedicated teacher who received the Sherrerd Prize for Distinguished Teaching in 2010.

In addition to his research and teaching, Michael has contributed substantially to faculty governance. He has served as chair of Faculty Council, and he currently serves on the Committee on Tenure and Promotion. He has directed the American Studies Program and is currently chairing the English Department.

Described by colleagues as "a model scholar" whose "intellectual vision informs his administrative work," Michael impressed me and the search committee as a deep and creative thinker about the future of the liberal arts. He is widely respected by fellow members of the faculty for combining incisive analytical skills with a commitment to fairness and justice. One colleague identified Michael's great strength as "the ability to frame issues clearly and powerfully, without diminishing their complexity or losing track of what's at stake in the decisions that economic realities send our way."

The first in his family to go to college, Michael received his undergraduate degree from the University of North Texas and his graduate degrees from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He has a deep awareness of the experiences of first-generation college students and is committed to working in a sustained way to make Smith more inclusive. He regards the work of inclusion, diversity and equity as an "ongoing and open-ended practice." I look forward to partnering with him in this work and in many important initiatives -- such as the renovation of Neilson Library, the improvement of our teaching spaces, curricular innovations and the renewal of the faculty -- that are critical to maintaining the academic distinction of Smith College.

In closing, I would like to thank the search committee—Nalini Bhushan, Susan Etheredge, Mike Howard, Daphne Lamothe, Sarah Moore, Kate Queeney, Beth Raffeld, Kevin Rozario, Marianne Yoshioka—for their dedication and discernment in this very significant search. I offer my thanks as well to the dozens of faculty and staff members who met with the finalists. Finally, I am grateful to Joe O'Rourke, Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Professor of Computer Science and professor of mathematics and statistics, who will continue to serve with great dedication and wisdom as interim provost and dean of the faculty until the close of this academic year.

Please join me in congratulating Michael Thurston and welcoming him to his new role.


Kathleen McCartney
President, Smith College